Try harder on waste, councillor chides colleagues

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Try harder on waste, councillor chides colleagues

Barrhaven Coun. Jan Harder is beseeching her colleagues around the council table to think bigger when it comes to reducing the amount of garbage being dumped into Ottawa's landfills.

Harder was speaking out Wednesday against a motion by environment committee chair David Chernushenko asking city staff to investigate ways to reduce the use of plastics in Ottawa.

"I hope the discussion is way larger than what I see here," a frustrated Harder told her colleagues following a brief debate.

Harder complained the city's ability to limit the use of plastics is itself severely limited because about 70 per cent of the waste produced in Ottawa comes from the industrial, commercial and institutional sector, which falls under provincial jurisdiction.

Make it an election issue, Harder says

Last month council passed a motion asking the province to hand control over that garbage to the city. On Wednesday Harder suggested councillors should make it a provincial election issue. 

Only once that happens can council have a meaningful impact on reducing the use of plastic in Ottawa, she said.

"I think that there are bigger fish to fry here, and when we start that the rest will come into play," Harder said.

The motion passed, with only Harder and Kanata-South Coun. Allan Hubley dissenting.

The proposal was meant to be "simple and quite innocuous," Chernushenko said.

No authority to ban plastics

The city's legal advisers don't believe Ottawa has the authority to ban certain plastic products such as straws or bags.

Nevertheless, cities including Vancouver and Montreal have already banned plastic bags at store checkouts. Toronto considered it as well, but ultimately backed away from the idea.

"The question is what is in our mandate to address, and what can we do meaningfully at this time?" Chernushenko said.

Harder said she'd like to see staff spend time on a more audacious approach, and even suggested incineration, an idea rejected in the past.

"I think that there's other things that we need to be investigating and not be afraid to," Harder said.

Harder bemoaned what she characterized as council's weak response to the problem.

Where once Ottawa was aggressive in educating residents about proper use of their blue, black and green bins, the city now has some of the worst diversion rates in the province.

The motion that passed at council also asks city staff to weigh in on a federal consultation on how to reduce plastic waste. Council will debate a new strategy to divert Ottawa's waste in 2019.